You Call That Justice?

Another thing about that Karen Armstrong piece. I touched on it in passing yesterday, but it occurred to me this morning that I needed to make much more of it. She said something really quite disgusting.

…the chief problem for most Muslims is not “the west” per se, but the suffering of Muslims in Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Iraq and Palestine. Many Britons share this dismay, but the strong emphasis placed by Islam upon justice and community solidarity makes this a religious issue for Muslims. When they see their brothers and sisters systematically oppressed and humiliated, some feel as wounded as a Christian who sees the Bible spat upon or the eucharistic host violated.

Wait. What? The strong emphasis on justice in Islam makes the suffering of Muslims a special concern, a special source of wounding? What? What does that have to do with justice? What kind of blinkered, narrow, parochial, groupy conception of justice is that? What – the suffering of Muslims is terrible while the suffering of non-Muslims is no biggy? Is that justice? Any more than it’s justice to think the suffering of Americans is unendurable while the suffering of Indonesians or Rwandans or Iraqis is nothing to get in a fret about? Justice is universal or its nothing; that’s part of the meaning of justice; that’s why we think special rules or privileges for one group at the expense of other groups is, precisely, unjust. A concern for suffering that is actually only a concern for the suffering of One’s Own Group is not a real concern for suffering, it’s a concern for One’s Own Group and ultimately oneself.

What on earth was Armstrong thinking when she wrote that?

Update: Norm also has a comment on this. The story of Derek and Elaine is relevant, too.

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